In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of academic research groups and commercial companies exploiting cosmic-ray muons for imaging purposes in a range of applications. Typically, these involve shielded containers and/or large, complex structures that cannot be investigated using conventional imaging techniques. Many of these applications relate to nuclear security and non-proliferation e.g. waste characterisation, cargo scanning and spent fuel safeguarding.
Since 2009, researchers at the University of Glasgow and the UK National Nuclear Laboratory have pioneered the field of ‘muography’ for the characterisation of shielded nuclear waste containers. This technique uses muons that are produced naturally in the upper atmosphere from cosmic ray interactions. These particles are observed at sea level with a flux of approximately one per second for an area the size of a human hand. By tracking the muon paths through an unknown structure, a 3-dimensional density distribution of the constituent materials can be reconstructed with positional accuracy and resolution of less than a centimetre.
Lynkeos Technology spun-out from the University of Glasgow in 2016 and subsequently commercialised its technology under an Innovate UK First of A Kind Deployment of Innovation contract. In September 2018, the first Lynkeos Muon Imaging System was installed on the Sellafield site and is currently undertaking a series of nuclear industry trials. In parallel, Lynkeos is evaluating the capability of its technology for new applications in a range of different industries, including dry storage cask monitoring for international safeguards.
Results from nuclear industry trials will be presented alongside simulations showcasing the potential of muography for safeguards applications.